A Short History of the Nestle Purina Petcare Company

In 1894, William Danforth founded a company dedicated to the nutritional health of pets and farm animals. Danforth’s core belief was that healthy farm animals lived longer and were more productive. With his partners, George Robinson and William Andrews, Danforth co-founded the Robinson, Danforth Commission Company. That company would change its name in 1902 to the Ralston Purina Company and would become known worldwide and recognized through Purina news as an undisputed leader in animal nutritional research and manufacturing.

The company branched out from feeding farm animals in the early 1920’s to include Purina Dog Chow which accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd on his Antarctic expedition as the food for the sled dogs. In 1956, Purina was the first company to develop the technology to produce the dry pet foods now widely known as kibble, and updated the manufacturing process in 1986 to allow real meats to be the number one ingredient in the newly introduced Purina Pro Plan dog food.

In that same year, Purina sold off its farm animal feeds division so it could focus on the growing pet market. Following its long-standing tradition of charity, in 1987, Purina consolidated its support for pet welfare under the umbrella organization named Pets for People. That organization donates tons of pet food, supplies, and cash to some 6,000 pet centered welfare organizations in the United States. The company also launched a Pets for Seniors program that recognizes the
positive impact pets have on senior citizens and allows seniors to adopt animal companions at a reduced costs from over 150 shelters across the country.

Research and development is another long-standing mission of the company, and a recent addition to the company’s fifty acre St. Louis, Missouri campus is a new four- story research lab. Purina established the only program to help researchers map the canine genome in 1999. In 2004, Purina was the first pet food company to use molecular level nutrition to provide a therapeutic diet aimed at helping dogs with arthritis.

In December 2001, the company was acquired by the Nestlé Company, a Swiss multi-national food company for US$10.3 billion. By combining Purina with the already owned Friskies Petcare Company, the resulting company, Nestlé Purina Petcare became the largest manufacturer of pet food in the Untied States, and second globally behind Mars by a scant .4% market share.

Currently, the company is the second most profitable division for Nestlé and contributes $11.2 billion in revenue. Still headquartered in St. Louis, the company operates a number of US manufacturing facilities, many of which have been cited as examples of best sustainability practices by incorporating solar energy, recycling technologies, and packaging reductions.

Purina’s 6,500 employees are encouraged to bring their pets to work with them and participate in a number of volunteer opportunities. The company is often included in various organizations’ lists of the best places to work.

Leave a Reply